Archive for the ‘Vegan Cooking’ Category

I love soup, and I do make a good batch now and then. When I first discovered how easy soup was to make, I was amazed. I always thought that it would be impossible to replicate those Heinz tins. The good news is that it is easy to vastly improve on any tinned soup!

I tend to base my soups on potato’s, which make a nice thick soup which is a quite ‘creamy’ for a vegan palate when liquidised. I then use complimentary flavours to make the soup special or unique. The recipes change depending what I have in. This particular soup was produced from the following

  • 3 large carrots
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic

I peeled and chopped the carrots, potatoes and sweet potato and steamed them til done. Meanwhile I chopped then fried the onion for a few minutes til starting to brown and added the chopped leek. Then I quite roughly chopped and crushed the garlic, which was put in with the other fried ingredients for a minute or two.

When the steamed veg was ready I added the steam water to the onion and leek mix, stirred in the steamed veg and added some seasoning. I blended it all til smooth and tucked in. Using carrots and sweet potatoes gives a soup a beautiful vibrant colour which definitely adds.

I served this with thick bread and some cut ‘living salad’ from Lidl; it was gorgeous.

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Leek Soup

Better than Heinz

This is the method I use for the heartier type of soup, more wintery than summery. This standard recipe can be tweaked to change the flavour by adding complimentary falvourings. But always natural flavours never msg, of course.  Carrot works well with coriander, ginger and orange, believe it or not. So mixing in some of one of these will give the soup a completely different feel. The leaves add to it too, this made it more summery and seeing as yesterday was the first really sunny warm day of the year, it was a nice touch, even if I do say so myself.

I think the take home message is, have a little experiment, find something that works and have a little mess around with it and see if it works. If you stick to complementary flavours, tomato and basil are another safe bet, you’re onto a winner.


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As a result of the Veg Wars I mentioned on here a while back, I ended up with more mangoes than I could handle. So I decided I’d try to make some sorbet, on the hoof. I didn’t research it at all I just went ahead with my recipe. I peeled and pureed four large mangoes added juice of a lime and plenty of ginger (another abundant Veg War buy). Then froze it. This worked quite well although it’s not sweet enough, a little agave syrup would probably help.

Today I made a lovely variation on standard fruit salad, which can be a bit ordinary. Out of a tin you always get that weird looking cherry thing that is far too artificial to be of use. An old friend of mine, many years ago, used to make amazing sandwiches, tons of different salad vegetables and condiments. He said if you wanted a decent butty you needed to put effort into the preparation. Wise words, I’ve applied this theory to the fruit salad.

I had one juicy pear left over that needed using and chopped it up nice and small with an organic pink lady apple. Then chopped up three kiwi fruit and mixed them together. As an afterthought I threw in some chopped organic dates, from Planet Organic, to add some sweetness to balance the tangy kiwi. I put the whole mixture in the fridge to chill for a few hours. Before serving I chopped up and stirred in a Pomegranate, Blueberry and Oat Fruitus bar and added the mango ‘sorbet’.

Frosty Easter Fruit Salad

As I mentioned above the sorbet needed some sweetening but overall the fruit salad was a series of delightful Easter flavour explosions. Yee-ha!

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Animal Aid have a campaign called Meat Free Monday, easy for me and incidentally for nearly all of my family. However, I do have friends who eat meat who may be open to being nudged towards a meat free Monday.  The video is very good clearly getting the message over. I can see no reason why anybody would argue against the message, but then I do agree with it, so that part is once again very easy.

The original Press release for Meat Free Monday describes the short film and its message. Simply, as “world leaders….. failed to agree…. meaningful initiatives at the recent Copenhagen Climate Change Conference” the film is a call to action for individuals to make a difference to climate change by dropping meat one day a week and they do have a point. It’s all well and good recycling using energy efficient light bulbs but what about energy efficient eating! With minimal personal investment, beyond light bulbs and recycling, a real difference can be made.

There are some pdf packs with leaflets and booklets, or you can order some for distribution from the campaign page. The booklet has some basic recipes and information for the meat free beginner, which may come in handy, while the other bits and pieces can be put up in local shops and noticeboards.

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George Foreman was renowned for his big BIG punching power, but in recent times more so for his preaching and grilling. I first heard of the Foreman grill years ago, and thought it seemed like a great idea for those sufficiently health conscious enough to reduce their saturated fat intake, not quite as health conscious as they could b, but thats another story.

I bought one form Argos, on a friends recommendation, and have just started to use it. My friend said she was amazed at how much she uses it because she is veggie, but I am yet to get into the swing of it. The first day I got it I decided to buy some vegan soya products and grill.

I grilled a couple of types of sausage with some tempeh, a mushroom and a tomato. This worked well and was pretty enjoyable. Not earth-shattering as such but decent enough, the tempeh is better fried I think, but the rest were good enough.

A few days later I had some more sausages with veg and homemade gravy, which was very nice. I think I prefer manufactured soya products in ‘sunday dinner’ style better than a straight grilling stylee. I do like gravy. This one was made with Bouillon and lots of onion, definitely a winner. Note how the grilling machine ‘squared’ up the sausages, these soft ones were very nice cooked this way, and there was even some oil in the drip tray!

So, so far so good. I am dieing to get some mind blowing ideas for the grill, I noticed on Georges site there are one or two fruit recipes, the banana one looks good. So maybe there is some scope to spice up fruit a little. Definitely worth a try, watch this space.

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Chunky Chinesey Soup

I wanted to cook soup, a nice ‘watery’ Chinese style soup. Nice big chunky veg with lots of liquid, that was the plan. The only veg I had in would have to do, so courgette, savoy cabbage, leek and onion then. Add a some quinoa and noodles, and we’re onto something half decent, I thought.

This watery style of soup is typical of what you get at Cafe Soya in Birmingham, which is probably my favourite restaurant (they understand vegan). Filling and very tasty, I’ve copied this before but for now I was limited by cupboard ingredients. The noodle situation was grim so it was going to have to be pasta tubes, wholewheat of course.

Firstly, I washed and put the quinoa (one small cup) on to cook for ten minutes with some red lentils (half a small cup), and in another pan i put about 300 grams of pasta tubes on to cook. While this was doing I roughly chopped an onion and a leek and gently fried them for five minutes, added about 9 cloves of garlic (adjust to taste, I love garlic) which I sliced and squashed, with big chunks of courgette, two teaspoons of paprika and four of cumin. After two more minutes I added the pumpkin seeds (a good handful), then sesame seeds (another good handful) and diced tofu. Then right at the end I stirred in sugar snap beans and the inner half of a savoy cabbage, roughly chopped.

The smoked tofu (with almonds and sesame) I used for this recipe is from Taifun. It’s great tofu, very firm with a fantastic flavour brilliant in stir fry, but untried in soup until now. I like cooking like this though, it usually works out, and I was hoping all the individual flavours and textures would come through.

Once the quinoa and lentils were done, these were added with sufficient of the cooking water to prevent sticking. After stirring this for a couple of minutes I added 1.5 and 2 litres of boiled water, which I’d dissolved 3 stock cubes in. I’m using yeast free stock at the moment. Then I drained the cooked pasta and added it to the main soup pan. There’s a lot of soup there!

I let it cook very slowly for a few more minutes, just so the liquid is steaming, rather than bubbling. It tastes excellent, the lentils and quinoa lend a ‘creamy’ flavour while the other ingredients provide a yellow tinge in appearance and imbue their individual character. In short, it’s delicious soup.

I did think about adding some hot chilli sauce, or perhaps mixing some with lime to add to the bowl, but the person who was eating with me doesn’t like hot food and I needed to eat. So maybe I will do that tomorrow, there is a lot of soup left, this could probably feed (half) the five thousand there’s so much left. I’m concerned that the pasta will soak up all the liquid, but it’ll still be tasty tomorrow and will set me up for the Villa in potential snowfall.

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I’ve never had much luck with dumplings, they’ve tended to disintegrate, which is very disappointing. My friend made some for a puy lentil soup he made, which were great and were exactly like the dumplings of my childhood. In the lentil post, I describe a stew recipe that dumplings would have suited very well.

5 lentil winter stew

In the picture you are unable to see that the stew is piled up on a thick slice of wholemeal bread, this is the poor mans version. Or, nearer to the truth, the unskilled cooks version. The bread soaks up the ‘juice’ and acts like a dumpling, try it it’s very good.

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Miserable hippy, liked lentils

Lentils are great, and not just for Neil off the Young Ones! I used to operate almost exclusively with the red variety mainly making dhals, it  took me a long time to realise just how many types there are. I’m lucky, I live in Balsall Heath,  right on the edge of Birmingham’s ‘Balti Triangle’, so there are a lot of cheap Asian ingredients readily available. So, I have stocked up with six varieties of lentil, all from my local shop and all very cheap.

If you buy these sort of ‘East End‘ products, or the equivalent, from regular supermarkets you pay over the odds, much better to go to an Asian grocery shop, and why not pick up your spices at the same time. I bought three lentil varieties that need only 30 minutes soaking and three that require an overnight job. Predictably, I’ve used the first three types more often, but with a little planning the others have been used too.


Soaking time

Chana Dall – split yellow gram

30 minutes

Toor Dall Dry

30 minutes

Brown Lentils

30 minutes

Urid Dall Chilka

5 hours

Cow Peas

5 hours

Moong Dall Chilka

5 hours

In years gone by I’d think of lentils as a staple food in times of need, a saviour when cash-strapped, nothing fancy at all. I have, however, tried some recipes more salubrious than simple dall, which in conjunction with dinners at a Hindu friend’s house, have elevated the lowly lentil beyond survival food. This winter, after purchasing my six varieties I have had a bit of a lentil renaissance.

One reason a lot of people ignore lentils is an unfortunate side-effect often experienced when over-indulging; wind. Lentils make you fart, there’s no getting away from it. But, it’s possible to greatly reduce this problem by going overboard on the washing, as detailed below

  • Wash the lentils before soaking in three or four changes of water, the best way I found to do this is to put them into a jug and fill it with water then empty it through a sieve, to retain the lentils.
  • Always change the water after soaking, and wash them again before cooking
  • During cooking occasionally remove froth
  • Once cooked they can be washed a final time

I used this method with five of the varieties to make a thinish stew this afternoon. I soaked the overnight lentils and added to them with brown lentils and chana dall then cooked them – boiling hard for ten minutes then simmering for 30 or so. In the meantime I slowly steamed potatoes, sweet and regular with a  few carrots. Then I fried thickly chopped onion for a few minutes before adding some garlic. Before adding the other ingredients, I threw in paprika, cumin and coriander for a final fry.

I then mixed in the cooked veg and lentils, finally adding the ‘steaming’ water (with three stock cubes dissolved) and let the whole thing tick over on a very low heat for 10 or 15 minutes. I wanted the lentils to thicken the stew a little whilst being careful to not let the vegetables disintegrate. The result was pretty good, a lovely hearty stew for this freezing snowy day, which the photo fails to do justice. Lush!

5 lentil winter stew

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